St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Whether or not summer is finally here is probably still a subject for next week's report. The forecast says it might be, but so far this year, any forecast more than 24 hours ahead has been pretty much a random guess. Though today was sunny and warmish (it didn't break 20°), most of the past week continued the cool, cloudy trend we have had all spring.
The garden, however, has decided that, cool weather or not, everything is going to carry on as though it were July. The meadow is full of daisies and dandelions. The grass out there is shoulder-high on me. It makes quite a difference not having deer in the yard this year!
Our climbing rose is very happy. It had a major growth spurt this spring, and is now covered in blooms. We fed it a full wheelbarrow load of compost last fall, and gave it a bucket of seaweed this spring, and it sems to like that.
Down in the vegetable garden, I have weeded and thinned the main veggie bed. The beans are still slowly recovering from a slug infestation when they wer germinating, but the carrots, spinach and collards are looking good. The spinach is an unusual red variety. It still tastes like spinach, though.
The garlic is ready to have the scapes (the flower stalks) cut off. Cutting them off forces the plant to put its energy into the bulbs instead of the flowers.
The stars of the garden right now are the strawberries. The weather has actually been a bit too cool and cloudy for them. It doesn't show in the ripening rate - we have a bumper crop - but we have a lot that go moldy. We probably need to thin them more next season. We have to pick them daily right now. If we miss a day of picking, it just means more work the next day. We are getting something like 15 pounds of berries daily. This week's desserts included a rhubarb-strawberry pie that may just possibly be the best dessert ever, and a strawberry-chocolate mousse pie (ditto).
On Friday, Wendy and I celebrated Canada Day by going for a hike at the south end of Denman Island. It is an area that we haven't explored much. A moderate-sized provincial park (Boyle Point) is contiguous with a quarter-section of crown land that is slated to be added to the park within the next year and a large parcel of nature reserve owned by the Islands Trust Fund and managed by the Denman Conservancy Association. The combination of lands makes for a large contiguous area of wild, protected land, that has some really nice hiking trails.
We hiked for over two hours, covering nearly nine kilometres, exploring several of the trails. We turned back for lack of time, but we plan to return to continue the exploration. We never did get to the end of the main trail we were on, so we have to see where it ends up.
Today was the day for the annual Firefighters' Pancake Breakfast. It is the biggest single event on the island, regularly drawing nearly half the population. The day began with a 6:00 am page (yikes!) on our radios to make sure we got to the hall in time to set everything up. The trucks were taken out of the hall, to ensure there was space for people in the event of rain, and parked strategically to not only make them accessible by the public, but also to leave them free to get away in the event of a callout.
People started showing up for breakfast about 9:00, and from then on, there was a steady stream of customers until noon. I was in charge of cooking the vegetarian sausages, and Wendy sliced strawberries. The pancake breakfast strawberries, unfortunately, were the plastic ones imported from California, not real thing from Denman Island.
The weather for the breakfast was better than we have come to expect. It was sunny, though the temperature could have been warmer.
On Monday, Wendy and I went for another hike at the south end of the island. Since we didn't get to the end of the trail on our Canada Day hike, I wanted to explore where that trail ended up. Based on the direction it was heading when we turned around, I took a guess that we could access the other end of the trail from the Boyle Point viewpoint. We hiked down the tourist trail to the viewpoint, which overlooks the Chrome Island lighthouse, and then walked the trail to Betty's Beach, where we ate our lunch while enjoying another view of Chrome Island.
Finally, we explored a side trail which seemed to be heading in the direction of Friday's trail. Sure enough, after about half an hour of walking through open forest, we recognized, and confirmed with GPS, our turnaround spot from the previous hike. So now, we know of a nice, moderately long trail which can be combined with other routes into a scenic loop. We still have a few more trails in that area that we want to explore.
In the garden, the strawberry harvest continues. We are starting to run out of containers in which to freeze them. The raspberries are starting to look promising. I hope we get some warm weather so that they will ripen before the fall.
On Tuesday, Wendy was out on her regular walk "around the block" when she came upon a large tree down across Pickles Road. We are used to trees coming down in major storms in the winter, but we had had no big winds in recent days. The tree, which looked a bit rotten, had apparently just toppled over of its own accord. I had visions of a hummingbird or dragonfly landing on a branch and putting it just sufficiently off-balance to cause it to fall.
Though it is tempting to harvest firewood from any naturally-fallen tree, it was far too big for my chainsaw's 20-inch bar. We phoned Emcon, the local highways contractor. Eventually someone, who might not have been an Emcon employee, showed up with a big chainsaw and cleared it off the road.
The highlight of this week was a weekend visit from my brother Adrian and his partner Ed from Vancouver. It was a treat to be able to show them around our house and property, and to take them around the sights of Denman Island. We took them to several artists' studios, introduced them to some of our friends, and hiked on some of our favourite trails.
They were pleasantly surprised to find that we have a restaurant serving excellent meals here on the island. I am sure that they expected granola and pureed soybeans. Instead, we enjoyed a delicious and beautifully-presented meal at the Kaffee Klatsch Bistro - seafood for them and a vegan polenta for us.
I think that they were pleasantly surprised that Denman Island is more sophisticated than they had imagined.
The weather this month sure is nice - for October! The temperatures have been ridiculously low, and, this week, we had a major rainfall over three days. The level in the rainwater storage tank rose by 400 gallons, to within 350 gallons of full tanks. Though it has not been a particularly wet year, it has been so cloudy and cool, with intermittent showers, that we have not needed to water the garden much at all. In fact, I have been holding back on watering the strawberries to cut down on the amount of mildew on them.
Speaking of strawberries, we had a major haul of them earlier in the week. With my brother's visit last weekend, we missed a couple of days' picking. So, on Monday, with bad weather in the forecast, we did an emergency catch-up picking. This was our haul in a couple of hours of work: a full cart-load of berries!
We weren't able to pick in the rain, so we have probably lost some of this week's crop, but the plants are still producing.
The raspberries would like some heat to get into full production, but they have started ripening.
On Monday, we also went for a walk on a different route from our normal "around the block" walk. There were huge numbers of oceanspray (spirea) bushes blooming along the side of the road. The air was heavy with their almost sickly-sweet perfume.
We have been seeing lots of deer in the forest and along the roads. Mother deer are bringing their bambis out in the open now, and the males, like this handsome fellow, are starting to grow their antlers.
This week was the annual Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival. We had been scheduled to billet one of the writers, but he had to cancel on short notice due to illness. Wendy attended most of the sessions, while I only went to a few that particularly interested me. The festival is becoming well-known in the area, and about half the attendees were from off-island.
I have been working on an observing chair for use with my telescope. When using a telescope for astronomy, particularly a Newtonian reflector like mine, you end up peering into it from all angles and all heights, depending on where it is pointing. An adjustable chair is almost a necessity. This one is based on designs that I have seen on the Internet. The seat adjusts from about 12 inches to 42 inches in height, and there is an adjustable footrest for use at the higher heights. The whole thing is collapsable for easy transportation.
Now, if only the weather would cooperate and give us some clear skies...
Most of this week remained cool and cloudy. However, the weather did clear up for the weekend, with some nice sunny weather, and the temperature getting up to 25°C for only the second time this year.
Our strawberries were pretty much wiped out by the rain of the previous week. We will probably do one more picking, and that will be it for the season.
The raspberries are coming into production. We have a lot of baby grapes, but there is little chance of any of them ripening this year as we are just not getting the warmth they need.
On Friday, Wendy and I took another hike in the Boyle Point region of Denman Island. The trail we took this time led us through one of the biggest blowdowns from the big December 2006 storm. The sheer number of huge old trees that were toppled and are still lying on the ground is impressive.
We have now explored all the major trails in that area. There is quite a network of trails covering several adjacent properties. Now that we know where they go and how they interconnect, we can make several different loops for longer hikes.
I eventually want to do some similar trail exploration at the north end of the island, too.
Denman's new dock is coming along nicely. Apparently, it is on time and on budget. The floating portion of the dock is now in place, moored to its pilings, and all the ramps and walkways appear to be finished. There is a new gate across the road entrance, and railings are being installed along the edge of the breakwater. Just this evening, we saw a large barge tie up to the dock, presumably to work on some portion of the dock. It may be the first boat other than the ferry to tie up at a Denman dock in years. The grand opening is scheduled for the end of September.
Today, we drove down to Duncan on Vancouver Island for the last day of the annual Islands Folk Festival. It is the first time we have been to it, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Next time, we may go for more than one day.
It is held on the grounds of a former residential school, now a working organic farm and a community for handicapped people. They had five music stages running all day. One of the nice features of the festival is that they limit ticket sales to 3000. We have found in the past that festivals that limit ticket sales rather than trying to grow without limit tend to be more enjoyable experiences.
Some of the acts were big name folk or blues musicians, and others were ones we had never heard of, but all the music was good.
The weather was sunny and warm for it, something we are definitely not used to this year. Believe it or not, we were complaining about the heat and trying to find places in the shade!
After stopping for supper in Qualicum Beach, we arrived at Buckley Bay expecting to have to wait an hour for the next ferry. However, heavy vacation traffic leaving Hornby Island forced them to put on an extra evening run, and we hardly had to wait at all.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013